Between September and October of 2020, Nigeria was engulfed in widespread mass protests. These protests, driven by youths and powered by some serious funding from donors both in Nigeria and outside, have severally been described as the biggest movement ever recorded in the history of the country.
This was the EndSARS movement.
It all began as a small affair in Lagos where a handful of young people went to the Lagos State Government House to protest against incessant harassment, torture and brutality meted out against them by the police and its rogue unit, the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). But that small affair grew larger and larger by the day until one venue was no longer enough to contain it.
The movement soon spread across the length and breadth of Lagos and Abuja, and indeed across the country. At least 20 states are reported to have witnessed at least one EndSARS protest. In Lagos and Abuja, it was a nonstop affair.
The lifeblood of these protests, asides from the sheer will and determination of the average Nigerian youth to put down their collective feet and bring an end to police brutality, is a steady flow of cash from donors in support of the protest.
The majority of these donations were received and administered by the Feminist Coalition (FEMCO), a female rights group based in Nigeria.
This money was meant to take care of expenses like logistics, refreshments, medical bills of people who suffered bodily harm during the protests, legal fees of protesters arrested and detained, repairs for people whose cars and other equipments were damaged in the course of the protests, and sundry other expenses.
Two days after the EndSARS protest was brought to a screeching and brutal end at the Lekki tollgate where Amnesty International claims at least 12 protesters were killed by members of the Nigerian army, the Feminist Coalition said it has received a little above N150 million.
Signs of trouble…
The FemCo was lauded for its diligent and professional handling and disbursement of funds during the protests. It was also praised for bringing donations to an end following the unfortunate crushing of the protests.
However, the first whiff of trouble came in March when the coalition was asked to publish a report of monies received and how they were spent. In response, the coalition made public a brief report on its income and spending during the EndSARS protests.
Disparities in report
Members of the tweeting public who scrutinised the report began pointing out disparities within it. The first was that the coalition gave a general report without stating which companies or individuals received which sums and for what.
While the FemCo made it clear that names of families that received donations after losing loved ones are been protected (as they should), people, however, expected them to outline which individuals and, or companies got legal fees, mental health fees, medical support fees, “Memorial” documentary production fees, etc.
People also pointed out some inconsistencies with the money recorded for the documentary production in honour of the victims of police brutality. The FemCo said it spent N2m out of a possible N5.2m to produce the documentary, and the surplus was included in the initial victims of police brutality fund.
However, the inclusion doesn’t seem to have been reflected as the sum for the victims of brutality remained N40.2m.
But perhaps the biggest source of suspicion was the Bitcoin sale/transfer. The FemCo report states that about 0.9 Bitcoin was sold in November 2020 as part of a 7.2 Bitcoin sale for N57.59m. While it received payment in less than a month, the transfer, however, took nearly 4 months to be confirmed.
It explained that the delay in confirmation was due to meagre transfer fees chosen and a clogged up network. Many people however believed that no crypto transfer should remotely take that long.
Indeed an article on Paxful, one of the world’s leading crypto platforms, says confirming transactions should take between 1 minute to 1 hour.
It takes two confirmations from the network before your balance is fully available in your Paxful wallet. This is the industry standard for a truly secure wallet. This can take anywhere from five minutes to an hour, depending on the Bitcoin network.Paxful
Even in the rare instance that it takes longer than an hour, Paxful insists it never takes longer than 72 hours. In that case, the transaction did not go through and therefore, the Bitcoin would reverse back to the originating wallet.
It’s rare that a transaction never settles on the blockchain, as most transactions will settle within 72 hours. Paxful advises you to wait 72 hours before resending the transaction. If the transaction never makes it to the blockchain after 72 hours, your Bitcoin can be found in the wallet it was originally sent from.Paxful
So why did the FemCo transaction take nearly 4 months to be confirmed?
Twitter user, Uncle Ayo Salako thinks it didn’t. According to him, the FemCo lied because the Bitcoin transaction wasn’t initiated in November 2020, rather it was initiated and completed on March 6, 2021.
Note that in November 2020 Bitcoin price was hovering between $18,000 and $20,000. In March 2021 Bitcoin price was more than $58,000.
With the aid of screenshots, Ayo alleged that in that particular wallet, the FemCop received 1.47 Bitcoin, not the 0.9 Bitcoin it claimed. This means 0.57 Bitcoin is still unaccounted for.
Using the Bitcoin price of $58,929 and exchange rate of N507 to $1 which was obtained in March 2021, the price of the total 7.2 Bitcoin was N215,413,912, not the 57,590,000 claimed by the FemCo. Therefore the FemCo needs to account for at least N157,823,190.
This latest development hasn’t been received well by a lot of people who took part in the protests. This is especially so for those who incurred losses during the protests. These are the people the funds were meant for in the first place.
One such person is Hymar Idibie whose Fidelity Bank account was frozen by the Central Bank alongside Rinu and others for playing major roles during the protests.
Speaking to Technext, he said he realised something was fishy with the FemCo when he demanded to know why they weren’t actually supporting people who had their accounts frozen.
“I am currently in court with Fidelity Bank over the account. And my lawyer is running the case on pro bono. So when Femco says they paid 24 million for legal aid, my lawyer definitely didn’t get his’. Even Falana’s people who took up the case when the freeze was announced did it on pro bono basis. So where did the legal aid go into?”
Similarly, Ngozika, a Lagos-based entrepreneur said she lost her phone, her car was vandalised and she suffered bodily harm as well during the protests. But asides from fixing her windscreen, nothing else was done.
“I was a victim of the EndSARS attack but all the promises made only a few were kept, lost my phones valued at 300k plus, my car was vandalized. My car windscreen was fixed but I had to paint myself because of all the machete wounds those attackers gave 2 my car. Got injured,” she lamented.
Hymar said he started suspecting the FemCo were hustlers when he approached a WhatsApp group with some FemCo members to ask why they aren’t supporting or even reaching out to people who had their accounts frozen.
Instead of an explanation, he said he got bile and invectives thrown his way.
“Their members accused me of being a troublemaker and being angry because I didn’t get my share. I gave off my own money to the protests, my own time. My account was frozen and I had to jump from state to state. Only for me to get hit with that the first time I complained that the money donated wasn’t being put to the use it was earmarked for,” he said.
He said he believes the accusations against FemCo are true. He said rather than playing the silent game, FemCo ought to come out and defend themselves in the face of it all.
“Currently, they have refused to account for not just 157m (in) Bitcoin but the naira donations we don’t even know how much came in. People who don’t have anything to hide would be transparent with their dealings. That Money is blood money. People were killed for it. People lost everything. People were maimed,” he concluded.
According to a Vanguard report, about 300 EndSARS protesters are still languishing in detention in various police formations across Lagos alone.
The Feminist Coalition announced that its audited report would be made available only to donors. Apparently, the coalition believes it is only accountable to people who made donations.
But the fact remains that the money, though provided by donors, was meant to be spent on members of the protesting public. In a nutshell, the money belongs to the people and as such, they deserve to know all about it.
Some FemCo supporters have claimed that the donors are satisfied and therefore that should solve the matter. However, some people who claim to be donors have come out to say they are indeed not satisfied with the accounting.
A Twitter user, Groovy Like Q said he was a donor and is of the opinion that the FemCo lied about the Bitcoin transactions.
“I donated 0.0194 BTC ($1,182) on October 13 2020 16:40 pm and I am saying FEMCO LIED about the Bitcoin transaction. I am not satisfied with the reporting and accountability regarding the Bitcoin transaction specifically,” they said.
Another person, simply identified as the Critic said he donated about $2,300 worth of BTC and he’s not satisfied with the accounting.
“Donated 0.0380 of BTC Oct 14th 2020. Value was about $2,300 then. You guys shouldn’t tread this way. We aren’t satisfied with the accountability. Quite simple,” he said.
I tried to independently confirm if these people are indeed donors as they claimed but none of them got back to me.
Many are of the opinion that folks accusing the Feminist Coalition are a group of people who didn’t like them from the onset. While this might be true, it isn’t enough to throw away their claims especially as those claims are of great magnitude.
The FemCo does have questions to answer. However, it seems it has adopted a policy of silence in the face of it all. I reached out to the Coalition with these questions through its Twitter handle but I’m yet to get a response at the time of pressing this post.
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